Mature Life Features

Cecil Scaglione, Editor

Archive for February 2012

Closet Collectors Cram Closets

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By Cecil Scaglione, Mature Life Features

     So you’ve completed a couple or more sets of 50-state quarters you began putting together for your grandkids, and decided to keep one or two packages for yourself. 

     What are you going to do with your collections? Will they sell for the profit you had in your head when you began? If you spend each set, you can buy $12.50 worth of something. You probably would have been better off buying each grandchild a $10 savings bond.

     Collectibles just don’t cut it a lot of the time if profit is the motive. Pasting $1 bills into a book is a lousy idea. Inflation deflates their value over time.

     A recently deceased relative left behind cartons of comic books and baseball cards. His heirs haven’t found it worth their while to catalog the collection and have it appraised.

   During a neighbor’s family visits back to northern Canada, resolves were made to rent a vehicle to transport antiques and collectibles back home to California to be sold to provide for a comfortable retirement. After getting over the wishing, a cold calculating look at the costs involved usually trumped the emotional ardor and gave way to common business sense.

     The point is that collectibles are not only in the eye of the beholder, they’re also in the heart of the collector. They usually offer more thrill in the hunt and satisfaction in the acquisition than profit in the purse. They provide the collector with a circle of like-minded colleagues to discuss likes and dislikes, as well as the opportunity to brag about the latest addition to one’s collection. But you can conduct the same spirited exchanges over your favorite book, movie or sports teams without having to spend time and money tracking down another piece of cloisonné for your collectible closet.

     If you enjoy the hunt and your chest swells with pride when you add to your hoard, you contain the core of a collector. And there are always new “hot” items to boost you up the ladder of collecting society.

    For example, it seems that almost anything from an old gas station – those roadside oases that began sprouting about a century ago – has become popular despite environmental  activists’ aversions to gasoline-gulping sports utility vehicles. As items such as the solid glass gasoline-pump globes become more scarce, their prices rise. So does the number of reproductions that appear at flea markets and in collector catalogs.

     As electronic slot machines become the norm in the ever-expanding coast-to-coast casino industry, the old one-armed bandits with those old-fashioned mechanical spinning reels have taken on new value because some collectors began coveting them. Jukeboxes have been a favorite among collectors for several decades now, especially since compact disks have all but eliminated the old black plastic records.

    The best way to find out if what you’re collecting, whether it’s little red wagons or ceramic salt and pepper shakers, can make you any money is to check catalogs, flea markets, and Internet sites for that particular item. If you already have a collection built up, you should have some idea of what the items are worth and how prices have risen since you began collecting.

You can test the waters by pricing similar items at swap meets or trying to  buy one on the Internet.

Mature Life Features, Copyright 2003

Written by Cecil Scaglione

February 24, 2012 at 12:05 am

The Big Difference Between Love and Sex is …

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… you ALWAYS have to pay for sex.

 

 

— Cecil Scaglione, Mature Life Features

Written by Cecil Scaglione

February 19, 2012 at 12:05 am

Posted in A Musing

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Costs Cut Into Government-Controlled Health Care

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By Cecil Scaglione, Mature Life Features

Government-cotrolled services  of any sort may focus on cost regardless of their intent.

You’d like to believe a politician who proclaims to be the crusader who will make sure you will never be deprived of health care or necessary medications. Especially when he or she pounds the podium with charges that the rising costs of both are caused by greedy medical- insurance companies, pharmaceutical firms, hospitals, doctors, and health-care providers.

Bring on the Canadian system, they say, where government has stepped in to keep the cost of personal health-care coverage down.  That’s fine, if you can get treated. And if you can get get a prescription for the best drug for your condition.

On a cable-Canadian televison show more than a dozen years ago, a panel of six Canadian and six American experts at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, agreed on only one thing: Canada’s health-care system not only is bankrupt, it’s in debt and will never get out of debt.

The same could be happening to Medicare in this country.

Medicare funds come from four sources: payroll taxes on workers’ income, a tax on Social Security benefits, premiums paid by beneficiaries, and general tax revenues. In 2000, payroll taxes covered 65 percent of Medicare expenses. Payroll-tax revenue is expected to drop below 40 percent by 2025. That means money will have to be taken out of general tax revenues to cover Medicare expenses or it, too, will run out of money like the Canadian program.

This is translated into patient deaths for our northern neighbor because waiting lists have grown longer.

While Canadians don’t pay for health services when they receive them, they pay for this “free” care by waiting, according to Sally C. Pipes, president and chief executive officer of San Francisco-based Pacific Research Institute. “Between 1993 and 2001, the median waiting time from referral by a general practitioner to treatment increased by seven weeks, from 9.3 weeks in 1993 to 16.2 weeks in 2001,” she wrote.

That’s one reason why Canadians requiring surgical or other procedures expeditiously swarm into the United States and pay the full costs for such care on the south side of the U.S.-Canadian border.

While government intervention is designed to focus on costs to the patient, it also focuses on costs to the government.

“Consider Positron Emission Tomography machines, or PET scanners,” Pipes said. This piece of equipment that helps doctors predict disease when other tests are negative, saving a lot of pain and suffering for cancer patients, costs more than $3 million. By the fall of 2001, there were more than 250 of these machines in the United States, 48 in Japan, 45 in Germany and nearly 20 in Belgium. There were two fully operational in Canada.

Canadian hospitals are not free to develop services, such as open-heart surgery and transplants, or to purchase expensive equipment, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners, “without specific approval from provincial governments,” she said.

This government-controlled, budget-focused system leads to some absurdities.

A quota was set in 2001 at Queensway-Carlton Hospital in Ottawa on the number of babies it would deliver. While able to handle 2,700 “free” deliveries a year, the facility decided to cut that number down to 2,100. This was designed to save $600,000. Doctors who delivered too many newborns faced the loss of their jobs.

It was revealed in 1998 that St. Joseph’s Health Centre in London, Ontario, was renting access to its MRI machine to veterinarians after hours to provide cat scans for pets. The hospital was turning its idle equipment into a revenue producer because, while humans don’t pay when they use the machine, pet owners do.

Both federal and provincial governments also are involved in setting price controls for prescription drugs. This regimentation has several costs. Before doctors can prescribe drugs, they must wend their way through a bureaucratic morass, Pipes said. This is the result of the procedures overseen by the federal Patented Medicines Prices Review Board that is charged with monitoring manufacturers’ drug pricing. The labyrinthine labeling of the three categories of drugs permitted on the market make it almost impossible to determine what is a legitimate cost for drug therapy.

Compounding the problem is that the provinces step in before a drug is allowed to be prescribed. For example, 99 new drugs were approved by the federal government from 1994 to 1998, yet Ontario patients had access to only 25 of them. And, as Pipes points out, “The cheapest drug might not be the most effective, but that doesn’t matter to the government.”

She cites the example of a British Columbia senior who was admitted to hospital with internal bleeding three days after “the government switched him to an older, cheaper, and less-effective drug to treat his peptic ulcers.”

She also addressed what appear to be attractive bargains on drugs in Canada. “A study by the University of Pennsylvania Wharton  school business school professor Patricia Danzon found that U.S. consumers, if they purchased the same bundle of drugs they actually purchase in the U.S. in Canada, they would have paid 3 percent more.”

The reason is that generic drugs, which account for half of U.S. consumption, are less expensive under the competitive U.S. system than the price-controlled Canadian system.

 

Mature Life Features,  Copyright 2003

 

Written by Cecil Scaglione

February 8, 2012 at 12:05 am

The class warfare prompted by politicians …

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… involves only two kinds of people:  the greedy — and those who envy the greedy.

Cecil Scaglione, Mature Life Features

Written by Cecil Scaglione

February 2, 2012 at 9:15 am

Posted in A Musing

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